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Full text of "Work with the Blind and Sight Conservation Classes of the Public Schools of New York City"

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THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF HATURAL. HISTOIlY 0o/>4 / 

DEPARTMEHT OF PUBLIC EDUCATION 

Work with the Blind and Sight Conservation Classes 
of the Public Schools of Hew York City. 

June 1929. 




The Department of Public Education of the American Museum of 
Natural History works with the totally blind and children of defective 
eyesight in two ways - first by instruction here in the Museum and second 
by material sent to the schools themselves. In cooperation with the Board 
of Education, regularly scheduled talks are held for the children of the 
Public Schools, while specially requested talks and museum trips are 
arranged for private organizations, such as the Hew York Institute for the 
Education of the Blind and other similar schools. Nature study material 
is sent fo the schools themselves when requested, while nearly all public 
schools where children of defective vision are taught are supplied with 
special large relief globes. 

The class instruction for the public schools is probably the most 
important and extensive of the Museum's work with the blind. In Hew York 
City the blind children and those whose vision is defective attend the 
regular schools, but are grouped for special instruction into special 
classes, the blind classes being composed of boys and girls whose eyesight 
is nearly lost and the sight conservation classes being composed of children 
whose eyes show varying decrees of defectiveness - a few nearly normal, but 
the majority quite subnormal. Most of the classes with which the Museum 
deals are of this latter type - the sight conservation classes - although 
several of the blind classes visit the Museum during the year* Of course, 
the difficulties of transportation limit the travelling of the totally blind. 
The ^ aim of the Museum instruction is to enlarge and supplement the necessarily 
limited knowledge of these children in natural history, geography, history, 
civies and health by giving the children the opportunity, not only to see 
but in so far as is in any degree possible, to handle material illustrative 
of various phases of these subjects. 

Every Spring and every Fall, the Department of Public Education in 
consultation with the Director of the Blind ana Sight Conservation Classes of 
the Hew York. City Public Schools makes out a list of ten talks including topics 
correlating with the curriculum and related to natural historyk geography, 
history, civics and health, and sends these to the individual teachers of 
these classes. The teachers choose the talks in which they are interested, 
check the day and hour most convenient for them, and return the slips to the 
Museum. A definite schedule of dates is sent back to the teacher, who then 
visits the Museum with her class on the dated specified, unless circumstances 
arise which make further adjustments necessary. The schedule is made as 
elastic as possible to allow for cancellations and subsequent rescheduling. 



Several days before each class the teacher is sent a postcard reminder. 

When the class reaches the Museum, it is taken to one of the smaller 
classrooms in the School Service Building, a wing of the Museum especially 
devoted to the work of the Department of Education. There a Museum instruct- 
or takes charge of the work. The instruction is done in so far as possible 
by explaining and examining actucal material rather than by giving formal 
lectures. The children are allowed to handle the material, when possible 
and to look it over very carefully. Although the blackboard and occasionally 
slides and motion pictures are also used, the main emphasis is laid on the 
examination of actual material. For instance, in the talk on Indian Life, 
the chilaren are allowed to handle, among other things, a beaded dress a 
cradle board, a birchbark dish and bow and arrows. In the nature talks like 
those on Dirds and mammals, the children see and touch mounted specimens of 
these animals. In the spring and early fall, a park trip is usually planned 
to^ supplement at least one of these nature talks. In some nature classes, live 
animals are used, as, for instance, live snakes and turtles in a class on 
reptile life, live goldfish in a class studying the functions and habits of 
the fish, and live frogs* eggs, tadpoles, toads, etc., in a class on pond life 
la the springtime. Of course, real plants and flowers are also used. 
Nature study seems to be especially adapted to these classes where instruction 
is made as individual as possible and where the children are given every 
opportunity to closely examine specimens not only with their eyes bjrt with 
their fingers. 

This individual instruction of course necessitates a small group; 
indeed most of our classes number about ten pupils sometimes all of about the 
same age and grade, but more often ranging from children about six or seven 
years old to boys and girls in their early teens - a factor which makes in- 
dividual instruction even more necessary. Because of the handicaps of the 
children and the individual type of the instruction, the subjects are made as 
simple as possible, a few, rather than many points being considered. 

In addition to the regular classwork, as before mentioned, special 
talks and museum trips are arranged at the request of several private insti- 
tutes for the blind. These are usually on some nature subject such as the 
structure and habits of some of our common wild animals. The children are 
given an opportunity to thoroughly feel and become acquainted with specimens 
in 1;he classroom and are thereafter taken out to the exhibition halls, where 
they are often allowed to touch the exhibited specimens, especially some of 
the larger ones, like the African elephants. These specially arranged classes 
are not limited to private institutions, for any teacher in the public schools 
may request a special talk or trip. For instance, one teacher is giving a 
lesson on the eye, using a museum model at the museum. During the spring of 
1929 the Museum has arranged and paid for bus transportation for special 
visits of the totally blind classes. 

Besides this class work with the blind and children of defective 
vision, a great deal of nature material, such as mammals, birds, mollusks, etc., 
is sent directly to the schools. One of the most valuable kinds of material 
furnished is the large relief globes on which the continents, mountains, etc., 
are raised, the river3 depressed, and the coast lines sanded so that fingers 
may learn what e;es cannot see. Nearly every school in which there is a blind 



class is furnished with one of these globes and the teachers report that they 
are almost invaluable in the teaching of geography. 

Such in the work of the Department of Education with the children 
of defective eyesight - in the Museum, the regularly arranged classes in 
nature study, geography, history, eivics, and health; the specially arranged 
talks and museum trips; in the schools, the supplying of nature material and 
tne relief globes. 






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